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James Dean

Real name: James Byron Dean
Birthdate: February 8, 1931
Status: N/A
Partner: N/A

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James Byron Dean (February 8, 1931 – September 30, 1955) was an American film actor. Dean's status as a cultural icon is best embodied in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause, in which he starred as troubled high school rebel Jim Stark. The other two roles that defined his star power were as the awkward loner Cal Trask in East of Eden, and as the surly, racist farmer Jett Rink in Giant. His enduring fame and popularity rests on only three films, his entire starring output. He was the first person to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and remains the only person to have two such nominations posthumously.

He enrolled in Santa Monica College (SMCC), pledged to the Sigma Nu fraternity and majored in pre-law. Dean transferred to UCLA and changed his major to drama, which resulted in estrangement from his father. While at UCLA, he beat out 350 actors to land the role of Malcolm in Macbeth. At that time, he also began acting with James Whitmore's acting workshop. In January 1951, he dropped out of college to pursue a career as an actor.

Much of Dean's performance in the film is completely unscripted, such as his dance in the bean field and his curling up and pulling his arms inside of his shirt on top of the train during his ride home from meeting his mother. The most famous improvisation during the film was when Cal's father rejects his gift of $5,000 (which was in reparation for his father's business loss). Instead of running away from his father as the script called for, Dean instinctively ran to Massey and desperately embraced him. This cut and Massey's surprised reaction were kept in the film by Kazan.

In her study on bisexuality, Professor Marjorie Garber writes that Ray, when he directed Rebel Without a Cause, "was not averse to using Jimmy's bisexuality to good purpose. The director knew that Sal was homosexual and encouraged him to explore that part of him that would love Jimmy. At the same time, according to Ray, Jimmy fell in love with Sal." "The studio heads refused to allow Nick Ray to film a kiss between James Dean and Sal Mineo that the director had proposed." At Dean's insistence, Jack Simmons, an acqaintance of Dean's, played one of the members of the teenage gang in Rebel Without a Cause, which led to the rumor that Simmons was Dean's live-in-boyfriend. This rumor, however, was contradicted by Dean's old friend and confidant William Bast, who had roomed with him in Los Angeles and New York, who stated that Dean told him that Simmons and he had no sexual involvement, that Simmons was only a groupie who "ran routine errands for him."

Dean's 550 was customized by the young George Barris, (who would go on to the design of the Batmobile). Dean's Porsche was numbered 130 at the front, side and back. The car had a tartan on the seating and two red stripes at the rear of its wheelwell. The car was given the nickname "Little Bastard" by Bill Hickman, his language coach on Giant. When Dean introduced himself to Alec Guinness outside a restaurant, he asked him to take a look at the Spyder. Guinness thought the car appeared "sinister" and told Dean: "If you get in that car you will be found dead in it by this time next week." This encounter took place on September 23, 1955.


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